Some Top Tips for preparing your caravan or motorhome for the winter
There are lots of questions around the area of best practice and top tips for getting your pride and joy motorhome, caravan or campervan ready for the cold months ahead. So what to believe? What to do?
Generally common sense prevails but here below I have set out to give you some top tips for protecting your motorhome against damage caused by frost, freezing and not being used for any extensive period of time.
Keep it Looking Good
It sounds perhaps daft to do this before you store your vehicle, but I believe its a good idea to wash the motorhome, roof down and apply a coat or even 2 of wax or polish. If you are storing your motorhome outside this is really important as the wax will protect the paint and the plastics. There are a myriad of products out there to do this with but a good idea is to wash, polish and wax and then cover in a Silicon spray. This will give a really good coat of armour against tree sap, dirt, grime and dust. It will also make it much easier to clean in the new year when you start using it again.
Completely Drain all the Fresh water
You can do this in a number of ways depending on the model and year of the motorhome. Either pull out the bung in the bottom of the fresh water tank, running the taps until empty or the plug on the outside of the fresh tank. Its important as well as draining the fresh water tank, to run the taps until empty and then switch the motorhome OFF leaving the taps OPEN to allow air expansion in the event of freezing air in the system. Remember too to hang the shower head below the taps – this will help it drain. You must also drain down the grey water tank and leave the drain tap open. This is the waste water tank under the motorhome.
Use a Motorhome Drainage Kit
There are a number of products available that will help drain the fresh water from your system. The kit connects into your fresh water system and you use an air pump or compressor to blow the water from the system. A worthwhile investment of time and money for added protection and peace of mind every year.
Empty your Hot Water Heater
Always check with your handbook on the best way to do this but its important to drain it down. Frozen water in the hot water heater can cause significant damage to the unit. You may have a Truma frost valve which will click on automatically and cause the hot water tank to drain automatically onto the ground under the motorhome. Or, your motorhome may have a manually operated valve. Either way you should make sure you can empty the hot water boiler. Check your owners manual or seek professional advice if necessary. Ignoring this part can result in a cracked hot water boiler. Expensive.
Inline Water Filters – Remove them.
These can easily freeze in the winter months so remove them from the motorhome completely. Start the new season with a new filter. Their cost is negligible so make the investment.
Charge your batteries
Do this in the usual way by hooking up and charging or going for a good long drive. Better still, disconnect the chassis battery by the earth terminal and remove the leisure batteries completely from the motorhome and put them somewhere warm and connect them to an intelligent charger. If the batteries are not sealed units check the electrolyte levels and top-up if required. Again, seek professional help if need be.
Turn off and Remove Gas Bottles
If removing your gas bottles from the motorhome is not possible as you have nowhere safe to store them then turn them off, disconnect them and leave them in the gas cupboard. If you are using Butane (blue bottle) it will freeze at a much higher temperature than Propane (Red bottle). Be aware of this if trying to connect the motorhome back up in the cold. If your motorhome has Gaslo fitted or a permanent refillable gas tank then simply turn them off. You may wish to isolate all the gas taps in the motorhome but this is not necessary.
Prop the Refridgerator and Freezer doors Open
If you have a Thetford, Dometic or Waeco made Fridge and Freezer you may find a small grey latch or something similar that enables the doors to stay open by a few centimetres. This is sufficient to stop mould growth and smells forming. If not then a good idea is a length of wooden baton between the door and the fridge frame and attach with blutac or something similar. You may find that the fridge door rests closed on the wood subject to the angle that the motorhome is parked. The objective is to prop the doors open a few cm. If you don’t the fridge and freezer may go black inside in a surprisingly short space of time.
Clean Out All Cupboards and Empty Food Stuff Containers
Don’t leave any food stuffs in the motorhome that isn’t in a tin or sealed container. Common sense prevails here of course but don’t entice the mice with the smell of food and vegetables!
Check your Awning
Unrolling your awning and giving it a clean before you park up for the winter is a good idea but make sure it is dry before you roll it away. The water will stain the canopy and create a lovely moist environment for bugs and mould to thrive. So its worth the effort to prepare it for the winter.
Check Tyre Pressures
Obviously you check them regularly throughout the year don’t you (?!) but its a good idea to check them before storing the motorhome. Refer to your motorhome’s manufacturer manual for the correct pressure or use the max pressure on the tyre wall as a guide. Do not over inflate. Check them again in the spring or after storing and you will know if you have any slow punctures. You may also wish to consider covering the tyres to prevent damage from UV rays if storing outside. Exposure to the sun can cause tyre wall cracking prematurely so consider covering them. A bespoke tyre cover can be purchased or even a piece of wood will do the job.
Cover up Your Vents
Fridge vents can be complimented with winter covers for winter use. Use them when storing and consider covering up the other vents with polythene and tape to prevent entry from leaves, insects and bad weather.
Your Accessory Equipment Batteries
Remove all batteries from the smoke alarm, wall clock and CO alarm etc. Recycle them if you can or keep them for the new year.
Covering up Your Windows
My advice is to NOT close blackout blinds in habitation windows or roof lights. This can stretch the retention springs over time and cause them to not retract properly. If you want to obscure the view into the vehicle or obstruct sun rays, use newspaper or a sheet in the window instead. However you do it, protect your blackout blinds. They are not intended to be closed for extensive periods. However, if your blackout blinds are not sprung loaded then its fine to use them. But a word of warning, if you close the ones in the rooflights you can cause the heat from the sun to get trapped between the blind and the rooflight resulting in a warped rooflight which will then not close properly. In the middle of winter in the UK this is less likely to be a problem but again, be vigilant.